Ian Poulter Masters Houston Open
In 1650, English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller wrote: “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.” For Ian Poulter, the years-long darkness was perhaps its most dense in the days following the 2018 WGC Match Play event; luckily for Ian Poulter after winning the Houston Open, with apologies to another famous Englishman, Here Comes the Sun.
- last week’s WGC Dell Technologies Match Play PGA Tour event, Poulter was informed by members of the media that by simply playing in the quarterfinal round, his ranking had returned to the top 50, making him eligible for the Masters; however, before teeing off to begin the round against Kevin Kisner, Poulter learned a semifinal berth was needed to achieve top 50 status. He dropped the round by an 8-and-6 score. A trip to Augusta seemed out of the question; the yellow roses of Texas would have to take the place of Georgia’s azaleas.
Thursday, as scores were low throughout the field, Poulter opened play in Houston by shooting +1, 73, good enough for 123 in the field of 144. On Sunday, as he sank a twenty-foot birdie putt to force a playoff with Beau Hossler, he must have wondered if it all wasn’t just one big April Fool’s Day joke.
For Poulter, the previous two seasons have been no laughing matter. An arthritic foot ailment forced him to forgo the final four months of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season. He began the 2016-2017 season on a major medical extension, which allowed him 10 events to reach $347,634 or 218 FedEx points.
“I’m on borrowed time,” Poulter stated in 2016. “I need to perform well.... I have to think that I’ve got a chance, I really do. The situation I’m in, I have to be aggressive, but I’ve got to be careful. I can’t make many mistakes.”
After falling short of both the money and points total, Poulter’s PGA card was seemingly lost; however, after Brian Gay, also on a major medical extension, noticed a scoring discrepancy regarding the issuing of points in 2016-2107 versus the previous season, Poulter’s status was ruled safe.
Despite his PGA status being secured, Poulter’s work was just beginning. Following the 2017 Honda Classic, Poulter was ranked 207. By the end of the 2017 PGA Tour season, with his foot no longer an issue, he’d climbed all the way to the 53rd position. By the start of the WGC Match Play, Poulter was ranked 51, just fractions of a point away from a Masters appearance. Unfortunately, after losing to Kisner, Poulter remained in 51st, fractions of a point away from a Masters appearance.
Then came Houston. After Thursday’s 73, Poulter packed his bags, convinced he’d be going home at the end of play on Friday. But at the start of play on Friday, the darkness began to break. In the second round, Poulter had the lowest score of the day, shooting -8, 64. The suitcase would have to be unpacked.
In the third round on Saturday, Poulter shot -7, 65, tying for the low round of the day. On Sunday, when he forced a playoff on the 18th green with his 21st birdie of the weekend, Poulter pounded his chest five times, the strain of the last few years finally beginning to lift.
As the first playoff round developed, Hossler found himself in the bunker. Then, after getting much more of the ball than expected, he found himself in the water. With a triple bogey, coupled with Poulter’s par, the 23-year-old from California would have to settle with his first career top-3 PGA Tour finish.
After Thursday’s 73, Ian Poulter assumed he’d be spending Easter Sunday at home with his family, but at the end of play Sunday, dawn finally broke. With the win raising his ranking to inside the top 20, Poulter claimed the final position in the Masters, and could finally book his ticket to the Promised Land that is Augusta National.
“To get this done today to get me to Augusta is amazing,” stated Poulter following his playoff victory. “My First stroke-play win in the States, and to do it with the Masters on the line is unbelievable. It’s going to take a little while to sink in. I’m super excited. Last week was painful. To come here this week, I was tired. I was frustrated…. I was patient, I waited my time. And this is amazing.”